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Asteroid alert: NASA just tracked a 9,200mph asteroid scrape past Earth | Science News



The asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2006 QV89, flew past Earth on a close approach trajectory. NASA said the space rock closed-in on Earth’s location in the morning hours today (Friday, September 27). On its closest approach of our home planet, the asteroid arrived around 4.54am BST (3.54am UTC). When this happened, NASA said the asteroid flew past at speeds of around 4.13km per second or 9,238mph (14,868kph).

What do we know about Asteroid 2006 QV89?

Asteroid 2006 QV89 was first observed flying around the solar system 13 years ago, on August 29, 2006.

At the time, the asteroid was too faint and too small to properly observe.

The initial uncertainty around its orbit suggested there was a one-in-7,000 chance of the rock hitting Earth.

Since the discovery, astronomers have made an additional 76 observations to determine QV89’s speed, size and trajectory.

READ MORE: How often do asteroids hit Earth? What is the danger

The European Space Agency (ESA) said: "Asteroids come and go, quite literally, often frustrating astronomers.

"You can catch sight of a hurtling space rock, take some measurements to narrow down its orbit, and days later it's gone – potentially remaining unobservable for decades."

According to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies, QV89 is a small Apollo-type NEO or Near-Earth Object.

NEOs are comets and asteroids flying around the inner solar system that sometimes cross paths with Earth’s orbit.

READ MORE: Expert fears NASA can't stop certain impact – 'Insanely irresponsible'

Apollo-type rocks are asteroids that cross the orbit in a similar way to Asteroid 1862 Apollo.

The asteroid measures somewhere in the range of 75.5ft to 170.6ft (23m to 52m) across.

At the upper end of NASA’s estimate, the asteroid is comparable in size to Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London.

At the lower end of the size estimate, the space rock is about twice as long as a London double-decker bus.

READ MORE: Billions of people will die in asteroid impact – shock warning

Was there any risk of Asteroid 2006 QV89 striking the planet today?

Despite the initial uncertainty over the asteroid’s trajectory 13 years ago, astronomers today have been able to chart the space rock’s orbit.

ESA said: "New observations taken with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope over August 10 to 11, revealed the actual position of the asteroid, ruling out any potential future impact threat to Earth from 2006 QV89 for the next century."

The asteroid approached Earth today from a safe distance of about 0.04631 astronomical units (au).

An astronomical unit is the distance between our planet and the Sun – 93 million miles (149.6 million km).

In other words, Asteroid QV86 missed us from a safe distance of more than 4.3 million miles (6.9 million km).


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